160. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to President Ford 1

Secretary Kissinger asked that I pass you the following report.

[Omitted here is discussion of Kissinger’s meeting with Giscard in Paris.]

I spent over seven hours with Gromyko this evening in very intensive talks on CSCE and SALT. On the former the main problem is now the obstruction of Malta in reaching the decision to convene the summit on July 30. The Soviets tried to enlist our support for some strong-arm tactics to isolate Malta and move to Helsinki without them if necessary. This would be a violation of the consensus rule prevailing in the conference and would be rejected by many of our smaller allies, as well as neutrals. It would also have broader implications for other international groups which we might come to regret. We did, however, assure the Soviets that we support a consensus to move to Helsinki on July 30 and I so stated to the press later.2 Mintoff is supposed to be heard from about 11 A.M. Friday3 our time and we will have to review the bidding at that time. Our CSCE ambassador is keeping closest touch with our [Page 640] allies to assure we remain in step. On the whole, the Soviets seem pleased with our efforts, which is one of the objects of our tactics in order to keep them generally quiet in the Middle East.

I obtained Gromyko’s agreement to a two and a half day Helsinki summit, if it takes place, beginning about 3 P.M. Wednesday July 30 and ending about 6 P.M. Friday August 1. This will also allow time for two meetings between you and Brezhnev as well as for other travel before the Japanese come. (I have broached possibility of postponing Japanese visit by two days to their ambassador in Washington.)

Three hour middle portion of meeting with Gromyko was devoted to SALT. He asked for restricted session and proceeded to recite Soviet counterproposals to our two month old suggestions on verification, cruise missiles, Backfire, mobiles, silo modification, heavy missile definition, and lesser issues. Proposals clearly reflected major Politburo deliberation, which Gromyko repeatedly described as very difficult. He himself again demonstrated his limitations in this area, sticking strictly to prepared instructions and showing little actual comprehension in depth of technical issues and displaying no authority to depart from his script either for purposes of elaboration or exploration. We will need many further exchanges, including your own talks with Brezhnev but probably also a longish visit by me to Moscow later in the summer.

In essence, the Soviets have accepted our MIRV counting rules. They agree that all SS–17s, 18s, and 19s will be counted as MIRVs and that the rule that a MIRV tested missile once deployed will also count as a MIRV on submarines. They also want provision to permit replacement of single-warhead missiles with new ones as long as these have been tested only with single warheads. This moves us a long step forward, though we need to do further homework on certain technical implications especially for our own Minutemen deployments.

Soviets have, however, tied this promising MIRV proposal to a firm reiteration of their existing cruise missile proposal.

Under this, air-to-surface cruise missiles on bombers with greater range than 500 KM will count against the 2400 ceiling. Cruise missiles on other movable platforms above 600 KM range would be banned. Land-based cruise missiles up to “intercontinental range” (i.e. 5500 KM) would be allowed, beyond that would be banned. We will need careful new look at our whole cruise missile position.

On Backfire, Soviets remained adamantly opposed to counting them, which is not surprising since they already have to reduce to reach the 2400 limit.

On mobiles, Gromyko for first time proposed banning those on land, while counting air-launched ones.

We had a long technical argument about a new Soviet proposal to limit silo modifications to a 32 percent increase in volume. While this [Page 641] could be accomplished by a 15 percent increase in silo diameter it could also be done by a 32 percent increase in depth, which we have found unacceptable. Gromyko insisted on the right to the latter, though he was highly confused on the matter.

Gromyko proposed a new light/heavy missile definition based not on throw-weight but on the lift-off weight of the missile. Under his formula any missile heavier than the heaviest light missile would be considered heavy and could not be deployed unless one of the present 308 heavies is removed. We will have to give careful study to this.

Gromyko also agreed to begin reduction negotiations in the same year that the SALT II agreement takes effect, i.e. possibly as early as 1977. This is a useful move from our standpoint. Finally, he proposed that the 2400 limit must be reached no later than twelve months from the date the agreement takes effect—again a considerable Soviet move on a minor but politically sensitive issue. We can probably shave a few more months off this.

I may raise some further clarifying questions tomorrow but I think basically Gromyko has exhausted his guidance. We will need to communicate through Dobrynin with some propositions of our own before your possible meeting with Brezhnev in Helsinki to try to narrow at least some issues so that they will be profitable for you to explore and narrow further. In any event, I think we have a quite serious set of Soviet proposals which for the first time since Vladivostok push SALT substantially toward a solution. Success is far from guaranteed, above all because of the amount of work we now have to do at home. I would like to discuss the situation with you in detail and to determine the best way to deal with the complex issues involved in the bureaucracy. Meantime, I am getting some analytical work underway in my own immediate staff so that we have a running start. I am giving Alex Johnson a very general fill-in for now with a strict injunction to keep it to himself until you determine our further course.

Gromyko’s mood was relaxed and friendly. He raised no contentious issues or complaints, though this may still come tomorrow, when we will also touch on the Middle East (he seemed to show no great curiosity), threshold test ban and PNEs and, probably, CSCE again. I consider this one of the most substantive and intensive sessions I have had with Gromyko, reflecting generally the Soviet desire, also voiced to the Senate delegation last week, to maintain the positive line of relations with the U.S. The Soviets may well be counting on your re-election.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, KissingerScowcroft West Wing Office Files, 1974–1977, Box 32, USSR, Gromyko File (28). Secret; Sensitive. Ford initialed the memorandum.
  2. For the text of Kissinger’s remarks to the press in Geneva on July 10, see Department of State Bulletin, August 4, 1975, p. 188.
  3. July 11.